Beatrix Potter’s menagerie; a trip to Hilltop Farm
Beatrix Potter is one of my favorite artists and her books have become some of the best-selling children’s books of all time. Her story of creativity and overcoming societal norms is an inspiration. Reared in a wealthy family in Victorian England, she bucked tradition by refusing to marry for money, as was common at the time, instead pursuing a career in publishing and art. She fell in love with a man “beneath” her social class and through the publication of her books earned enough money to purchase her own farm and preserve a magnificent tract of land in the beautiful Lake District for future generations.
Her story is elegantly told (with dramatic license ) in the film Miss Potter. The first time I saw the movie she became a symbol to me of using one’s talents to make a difference.
We boarded a train in London and sped north through the beautiful English countryside to Windermere. Along the way we saw spotted sheep, tracts of emerald pastures, stone walls and storybook villages.
Beatrix Potter’s family stayed in the Lake District during summers while she was growing up. It’s no wonder that she chose to move there after a tragedy shook her world.
We took a bus to Hawkshead, a village near Hilltop Farm., then a shuttle to Beatrix Potter’s first home she purchased with royalties from the sales of her books. Another famous writer also lived here as a child, we’ll discover his stomping grounds later.
Behind the school house at Hawkshead, is an old cemetery. It may have served as an inspiration for Wordsworth’s poem “We are Seven.”
In downtown Hawkshead, attorney William Heelis had an office. In the movie, Beatrix had him draw up the contracts for the farm purchase, they married when she was 43. I don’t know if that is how they met but his former office serves as a museum of Potter’s art.
An interesting discovery: Potter’s delightful paintings were all created to fit into her tiny books. Because the technology to expand and reduce art was non-existent, her watercolor paintings were about 3″ x 3 1/2″.
After a walk around Hawkshead we were ready to move on to our next adventure – Italy.